By Michael Jordan
A clock that brings death to those who lie close to it…chairs that rock untouched by hand or breeze…ghostly figures that flit along passageways..
No, this isn’t the plot for the latest horror movie…just some of the ‘jumbie’ stories that circulate around some of our old hospitals. Like dark family secrets, some of these tales are only whispered among staffers. Others, however, have been passed down and have become part of Guyanese folklore.
Take the story about the clock. This was a clock that once stood at the top of a tower-like structure of the now demolished medical ward at the Georgetown Hospital. In the old days, that clock, and the ward in which it was located, drove fear in patients who were sent there. The legend was that anyone who went to the ward ‘under the clock’ was likely to die.
For some, the term ‘he deh under the clock’ not only meant that a patient was in the medical ward, but also that this patient didn’t have long for this world.
Some patients were so terrified of being placed ‘under the clock’ that they took every possible ruse to avoid being taken there. I heard one story about a man who so dreaded being admitted to this ward that he opted to have himself discharged prematurely—only to die at home after falling off his bed.
But I learned that there was a simple answer to these stories.
An old staffer explained that back then, many of the patients who were admitted to the ward ‘under the clock’ were terminally ill, and this explained the high incidence of death in this ward.
But the other stories about the Georgetown Hospital weren’t so easy to explain.
For instance, there was something that nurses called ‘the pressing.’
According to some nurses who spoke to me, this is something that occurs when nurses are either asleep or on their rest period.
“You feel as if something is pressing you down,” one nurse said. “You are unable to talk or move.”
Claiming to have experienced ‘the pressing’ several times, the nurse said that she was resting in the nurse’s room one night when she suddenly became aware that the door had suddenly swung open. However, she saw no one enter the room, and she was seized with a terrible fear, and try as she might, was unable to move. She remained in this state until another staffer entered the room.
On another occasion, the same nurse said that she was sleeping in the rest room when she dreamed that a ‘fat dougla man’ had entered the room. She said that in her dream, the ‘man’ began to touch her breasts, and she was unable to move.
The staffer said that she eventually forgot about the incident until a male nurse confided in having a similar dream about a ‘fat dougla man’ approaching him with sexual intentions.
Another male nurse said that he was sleeping in the Medical Ward when he had a nightmare of a tall man standing over him. “I awoke with a terrible fear and slept no more that night.”
Some old staff also claimed to have encountered ‘ghosts’ during their nightly rounds. One male nurse spoke of ordering a ‘boy’, whom he assumed to be a patient, back to bed, only to have this ‘boy’ vanish before his eyes.
Others claimed that the spirit of a long-dead ‘sister’ wandered about the now-demolished Lady Thompson Ward.
But some patients also claimed to have been tormented too.
One woman claimed that a young girl repeatedly stood by her bed, while claiming that the woman was lying in ‘her’ bed.
Hospital staffers have different theories about these incidents.
One claimed that they were caused by ‘spirits of the dead under the influence of the devil.’ And hospitals are places of death. In fact, back in 1991, carpenters uncovered an ancient tomb while doing renovations at the Georgetown Hospital.
Others scoffed and said that they were Christians and didn’t believe in such nonsense.
A psychiatrist had a different explanation.
He said that hospital staffers encounter many traumatic situations, including death, when on duty. When they are asleep, these memories surface in their subconscious mind, and manifest themselves in various manners
And the victims of ‘the pressing,’ may actually have experienced a phenomenon that scientists call ‘sleep paralysis.’ One website said that sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep or upon awakening.
“In some cases…people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the “Hag Phenomena” and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision.
Another website said that “some scientists have proposed this condition as an explanation for alien abductions and ghostly encounters.
But whether one chooses to believe in the supernatural or not, one thing is for certain.
Shakespeare was right: There are indeed more things in heaven and in earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies.
(If you have information about any unusual or unsolved cases, please contact Kaieteur News by letter or telephone at our Lot 24 Saffon Street, Charlestown. Our numbers are 225-8458, 225-8465, 225-8473 or 225-8491. You need not disclose your identity. You can also contact Michael Jordan at his email address: [email protected])
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